Esophagitis - Topic Overview
What is esophagitis?
irritation or inflammation of the
esophagus . The esophagus is the tube that carries food
from your throat to your stomach.
Esophagitis can be painful and can make it hard to
What causes esophagitis?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is the most common cause of esophagitis. When
you have GERD, stomach acid and juices flow backward into your esophagus. This
can irritate the esophagus.
Other causes include:
- A hiatal hernia.
- Medicines that irritate the esophagus, including:
- Vitamin and mineral supplements, such as
vitamin C, iron, and potassium pills.
- Infection. People who have a
weak immune system are more likely to get esophagitis.
This includes people with
diabetes, or kidney problems, as well as older adults
and people who take
- Radiation therapy.
- Certain diseases that
make it hard to swallow, such as
- Food allergies, especially to
seafood, milk, nuts, soy, or eggs.
What are the symptoms?
Common symptoms of
Sometimes it also causes:
- Nausea or
- Belly pain.
How is esophagitis diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask
about your symptoms and past health. He or she may do tests such as:
endoscopy. During this test, the doctor puts a thin,
flexible tube down your throat to look at your esophagus. This test also lets
the doctor get a sample of the cells to test for infection. Sometimes a small
piece of tissue is removed for a
biopsy. A biopsy is a test that checks for
inflammation or cancer cells.
- A barium swallow. This is an X-ray
of the throat and esophagus. Before the X-ray, you will drink a chalky liquid
called barium. Barium coats the inside of your esophagus so that it shows up
better on an X-ray.
How is it treated?
The treatment you need depends
on what is causing the esophagitis. If you have esophagitis caused by
acid reflux or GERD, your doctor will likely recommend
that you change your diet, lose weight if needed, and make other lifestyle
changes. Here are some things to try:
- Change your eating habits.
- It’s best to eat several small meals
instead of two or three large meals.
- After you eat, wait 2 to 3
hours before you lie down. Late-night snacks aren't a good
- Chocolate, mint, and alcohol can make GERD worse. They relax
the valve between the esophagus and the stomach.
- Spicy foods, foods
that have a lot of acid (like tomatoes and oranges), and coffee can make GERD
symptoms worse in some people. If your symptoms are worse after you eat a
certain food, you may want to stop eating that food to see if your symptoms get
- Do not smoke or use smokeless tobacco.
you have GERD symptoms at night, raise the head of your bed
6 in. (15 cm) to
8 in. (20 cm) by putting the
frame on blocks or placing a foam wedge under the head of your mattress.
(Adding extra pillows does not work.)
- Do not wear tight clothing
around your middle.
- Lose weight if you need to. Losing just 5 to
10 pounds can help.